Mesclun Salad: Grow Your Own Greens

For guaranteed lunch and dinnertime delights this year, take a hint from the French: Grow your own greens to make mesclun salad.

| March/April 1985

The markets of Provence in the sunny southeast of France offer the makings for a very special salad, known locally as mesclun. Though the specific combination of greens contained in mesclun salad varies with season and gardener, the mix always includes several varieties of tender young lettuce plus an array of spicy greens and herbs such as curly endive, leaf chicory, dandelion, corn salad and the leaves of rocket, chervil and cress.

That's in France. On this side of the Atlantic, our not-so-quaint supermarkets rarely offer anything even approaching an elegant selection of lettuce that's still young and tender. What's more, your friendly Sooper Dooper produce manager probably hasn't even heard of many of the other standard mesclun ingredients.

Ah, but that's where one of the rewards of being a home gardener comes in: Since seed for all the mesclun greens is available through mail-order seed houses, and since there is absolutely nothing tricky about sowing and growing them, you can easily and inexpensively duplicate a bit of the dining elegance of France by planting a premixed salad garden. You can grow your own greens!

Here's how.

Mix and Match Your Salad Greens 

A big part of the fun of growing mesclun is choosing the varieties of greens you want and then mixing the seed in experimental proportions for planting. Try several combinations of ingredients; the difference in the flavor of the resulting salads will both surprise and delight you. (When mixing the seed, the measurements don't have to be precise; I use the "pinch of this and pinch of that" system and have always obtained excellent results.)

A basic mesclun mix could include as few as four varieties of greens and herbs, such as a mix composed of two parts each of curly endive and oak leaf lettuce, combined with one part each of chervil and rocket. Or, if you like to live dangerously, try shooting the works with a mixture of seed chosen from any — or all — of the popular mesclun ingredients.

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